Which boots are best for snow?
With most of the United States seeing some early flakeage this year, it’s time to break out the sleet-kickers. Some things to consider if you’re considering new winter boots, whether you need dress boots or something less sleek:
Traction
For minimum slippage on snow and ice, you want an outsole that is relatively soft with maximum tread. Ralph Fabricius of Russell Moccasin told me that you don’t want “a real hard sole for ice—that’s two hard surfaces up against one another. Some Vibram [brand] soles have more forgiveness to them.” So a dress leather sole is right out—adding a Topy rubber sole probably helps a little. The title of grippiest, according to Ralph, goes to Vibram’s Fire and Ice or Olympia soles. My Danner boots (pictured above) use a light but deeply lugged Vibram Kletterlift outsole that suited me well on a trip to Quebec last January. The white Christy wedge sole that looks so darn good with so many boots is not a great choice for snow—too flat and too hard.
For dress boots you’ll find Dainite studded rubber or Ridgeway (also a Dainite product) soles are handy and widely available on better British shoes, especially country boots like those from Crockett and Jones. Likewise Commando lugged soles. On icy sidewalks, though, there’s not much you can do but be cautious.
Water resistance
In cold temperatures, you can often get away with outerwear that’s not 100% waterproof—it will take a lot longer for snow to soak through the shoulders of a heavy wool coat than steady rain. Water from melting snow can start getting into shoes rather quickly, though. Leather is hide, and by definition porous, so you have two options: treat your leather boots with a waterproofing compound like mink oil or Obenauf’s LP, which can darken leather and will need re-proofing over time, or add a layer of synthetic material, like Gore-Tex. Hiking boots—I’m partial to classically styled models like Danners or Merrells—are the most likely to feature a synthetic liner; I don’t know of any true dress boots that do so. Of note is that the highest-end hiking boots, like Limmers, do not use synthetic midlayers, but rather recommend waterproofing treatments.
For dress boots, you’re best off avoiding serious snow and slush if you can, and treating your leather boots well, both before and after you go out in winter conditions. So, rub them down with a quality, natural leather protectant regularly, and once you get out of the snow, wipe them clean, use shoe trees, and let them dry away from heat to avoid cracking or overdrying the leather. Crockett and Jones’s Snowdon model is one of the few dress boots that claim to be waterproof, with a waxy leather upper and Norwegian/Veldtshoen construction that is less likely to let water seep in between the sole and the upper than most shoes. If I had a pair of Snowdons, though, I’d still shovel the walk in something I wouldn’t feel I had to fuss over.
Warmth
Few boots are significantly insulated by themselves. Viberg hikers use a layer of Thinsulate, and you can always wear down booties, I guess. Bean Boots, a classic choice for long New England winters, are really quite cold, although L.L. does offer shearling/Thinsulate lined models. For dress boots, Paul at Leffot recommends Edward Green Galway boots, which can be made to order with a shearling lined shaft. Woah. Let’s see those again. Nice. Like Eddie Green Uggs.
Of course, warm socks provide insulation when boots don’t. Cotton socks are poor insulators when dry and miserable to wear when wet. I’m a big believer in SmartWool’s widely available wool-blend socks. Are they dress socks? No; but if you’re wearing a boot with a high shaft anyway, the dress-appropriateness of your sock becomes less of an issue. If you’re desperate for a little more warmth without resorting to all-out ultra-thick hiking socks, you can add a sock liner, which you wear as sort of a baselayer for your feet. Sock liners (also called liner socks) are usually made from synthetics or silk—quite comfortable and not too thick. One last tip for warm feet: add a layer to your legs. Long underwear under your trousers is too warm for most offices, but if you know you’ll be out in the elements a while, they’re worth it: warmer legs will make your feet feel warmer, too.
-Pete

Which boots are best for snow?

With most of the United States seeing some early flakeage this year, it’s time to break out the sleet-kickers. Some things to consider if you’re considering new winter boots, whether you need dress boots or something less sleek:

Traction

For minimum slippage on snow and ice, you want an outsole that is relatively soft with maximum tread. Ralph Fabricius of Russell Moccasin told me that you don’t want “a real hard sole for ice—that’s two hard surfaces up against one another. Some Vibram [brand] soles have more forgiveness to them.” So a dress leather sole is right out—adding a Topy rubber sole probably helps a little. The title of grippiest, according to Ralph, goes to Vibram’s Fire and Ice or Olympia soles. My Danner boots (pictured above) use a light but deeply lugged Vibram Kletterlift outsole that suited me well on a trip to Quebec last January. The white Christy wedge sole that looks so darn good with so many boots is not a great choice for snow—too flat and too hard.

For dress boots you’ll find Dainite studded rubber or Ridgeway (also a Dainite product) soles are handy and widely available on better British shoes, especially country boots like those from Crockett and Jones. Likewise Commando lugged soles. On icy sidewalks, though, there’s not much you can do but be cautious.

Water resistance

In cold temperatures, you can often get away with outerwear that’s not 100% waterproof—it will take a lot longer for snow to soak through the shoulders of a heavy wool coat than steady rain. Water from melting snow can start getting into shoes rather quickly, though. Leather is hide, and by definition porous, so you have two options: treat your leather boots with a waterproofing compound like mink oil or Obenauf’s LP, which can darken leather and will need re-proofing over time, or add a layer of synthetic material, like Gore-Tex. Hiking boots—I’m partial to classically styled models like Danners or Merrells—are the most likely to feature a synthetic liner; I don’t know of any true dress boots that do so. Of note is that the highest-end hiking boots, like Limmers, do not use synthetic midlayers, but rather recommend waterproofing treatments.

For dress boots, you’re best off avoiding serious snow and slush if you can, and treating your leather boots well, both before and after you go out in winter conditions. So, rub them down with a quality, natural leather protectant regularly, and once you get out of the snow, wipe them clean, use shoe trees, and let them dry away from heat to avoid cracking or overdrying the leather. Crockett and Jones’s Snowdon model is one of the few dress boots that claim to be waterproof, with a waxy leather upper and Norwegian/Veldtshoen construction that is less likely to let water seep in between the sole and the upper than most shoes. If I had a pair of Snowdons, though, I’d still shovel the walk in something I wouldn’t feel I had to fuss over.

Warmth

Few boots are significantly insulated by themselves. Viberg hikers use a layer of Thinsulate, and you can always wear down booties, I guess. Bean Boots, a classic choice for long New England winters, are really quite cold, although L.L. does offer shearling/Thinsulate lined models. For dress boots, Paul at Leffot recommends Edward Green Galway boots, which can be made to order with a shearling lined shaft. Woah. Let’s see those again. Nice. Like Eddie Green Uggs.

Of course, warm socks provide insulation when boots don’t. Cotton socks are poor insulators when dry and miserable to wear when wet. I’m a big believer in SmartWool’s widely available wool-blend socks. Are they dress socks? No; but if you’re wearing a boot with a high shaft anyway, the dress-appropriateness of your sock becomes less of an issue. If you’re desperate for a little more warmth without resorting to all-out ultra-thick hiking socks, you can add a sock liner, which you wear as sort of a baselayer for your feet. Sock liners (also called liner socks) are usually made from synthetics or silk—quite comfortable and not too thick. One last tip for warm feet: add a layer to your legs. Long underwear under your trousers is too warm for most offices, but if you know you’ll be out in the elements a while, they’re worth it: warmer legs will make your feet feel warmer, too.

-Pete

Staying Warm at Home
I recently moved into a new apartment, and like most homes in the Bay Area, the insulation is terrible. Heat leaks through the windows and drafts come in from under the doors. It doesn’t get too cold here in the Bay, but it can get pretty dang chilly.
Rather than run my heating bill up, I often just rely on some simple at-home layering. Wool long johns can be put underneath a pair of pajamas to give some extra warmth, and a wool sweater can be thrown over whatever else I might wear at home. My favorite long johns are by Smartwool, who produces them in both light- and mid-weights (I prefer the latter). You can usually find them on sale at Camp Mor, Sierra Trading Post, or REI. Icebreakers is also pretty nice, though from my experience less warm than Smartwool, and I’ve heard good things about Uniqlo’s Heattech.
For sweaters, cashmere is obviously the warmest, but unless you’re going second-hand, the good stuff can be exorbitantly expensive. Cotton is pretty useless since it doesn’t retain heat all that well. Best, I think, are really thick sweaters made from lambswool or merino, which will have the kind of loft necessary to keep you comfortable. I personally wear a chunky, 6-ply lambswool cardigan from Ovadia and Sons (they’re having a sale right now, but sadly this season’s cardigan is not included). There similar pieces by Scott & Charters, Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, and Inverallan (the last of which Pete recently wrote about). Of course, you don’t have to wear a cardigan. Any style will do, so long as the sweater is thick.
In the mornings, I usually wear a pair of long johns and some pajamas, but once I come home at night, I’m usually in a pair of jeans, some at-home slippers, a button up shirt, and my chunky cardigan. It’s cheaper in the long-run than running the heater, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a good excuse to buy nice clothing.
And for those of us with significant others, sometimes excuses are necessary. 

Staying Warm at Home

I recently moved into a new apartment, and like most homes in the Bay Area, the insulation is terrible. Heat leaks through the windows and drafts come in from under the doors. It doesn’t get too cold here in the Bay, but it can get pretty dang chilly.

Rather than run my heating bill up, I often just rely on some simple at-home layering. Wool long johns can be put underneath a pair of pajamas to give some extra warmth, and a wool sweater can be thrown over whatever else I might wear at home. My favorite long johns are by Smartwool, who produces them in both light- and mid-weights (I prefer the latter). You can usually find them on sale at Camp MorSierra Trading Post, or REI. Icebreakers is also pretty nice, though from my experience less warm than Smartwool, and I’ve heard good things about Uniqlo’s Heattech.

For sweaters, cashmere is obviously the warmest, but unless you’re going second-hand, the good stuff can be exorbitantly expensive. Cotton is pretty useless since it doesn’t retain heat all that well. Best, I think, are really thick sweaters made from lambswool or merino, which will have the kind of loft necessary to keep you comfortable. I personally wear a chunky, 6-ply lambswool cardigan from Ovadia and Sons (they’re having a sale right now, but sadly this season’s cardigan is not included). There similar pieces by Scott & Charters, Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, and Inverallan (the last of which Pete recently wrote about). Of course, you don’t have to wear a cardigan. Any style will do, so long as the sweater is thick.

In the mornings, I usually wear a pair of long johns and some pajamas, but once I come home at night, I’m usually in a pair of jeans, some at-home slippers, a button up shirt, and my chunky cardigan. It’s cheaper in the long-run than running the heater, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a good excuse to buy nice clothing.

And for those of us with significant others, sometimes excuses are necessary. 

Saving On Heating Bills
I was chatting with my neighbor last weekend, who was lamenting how high her heating bill has gotten this past winter. Just under $200 a month to heat a small three-bedroom apartment (many of us here in the Bay Area have terrible insulation).
I was shocked until I realized I was paying the same two years ago. Lately, however, my heating bill has been around $100 a month. That’s because whenever it gets chilly, I just throw on this thick lambswool cardigan by Ovadia & Sons, which you can see above. I bought it last year on sale from CHCM. The price was $350, which was a lot for me, but I’ve wanted a chunky shawl collar cardigan for some time now, and since I’m unusually skinny, it’s hard to find things in my size. Slightly more fashion-forward brands like Ovadia makes slimmer fitting clothes, which sometimes can work in favor for a guy my size, so I jumped on the sale.
As a result, I’ve been able to use my heater less. Apparently about half as much as my neighbor, who has about the same size apartment as I do. You figure with approximately $200 in savings from December and January’s heating bills, this cardigan will have paid for itself by the end of next winter. 
Obviously, I’m not advising everyone to go out and spend $350 for a cardigan. But I am saying that if you can find some nice warm knitwear, it can be a better expenditure than relying on a heater. This 6-ply lambswool cardigan is so thick that is wears like a jacket. Other knits, which are meant to be worn as layering pieces, aren’t as warm simply because they’re not as thick. If you can find a truly chunky, warm-as-a-down-comforter sweater, it can be worth the investment.
On a budget, however, I recommend Smartwool Long Johns. If you layer their midweight wools underneath a button-up shirt and regular wool or cashmere sweater, you can stay pretty toasty. Campmor always seems to have them on sale for about $50-70. At ~$120 for both the top and bottom garments, these could pay for themselves in one or two months’ time.

Saving On Heating Bills

I was chatting with my neighbor last weekend, who was lamenting how high her heating bill has gotten this past winter. Just under $200 a month to heat a small three-bedroom apartment (many of us here in the Bay Area have terrible insulation).

I was shocked until I realized I was paying the same two years ago. Lately, however, my heating bill has been around $100 a month. That’s because whenever it gets chilly, I just throw on this thick lambswool cardigan by Ovadia & Sons, which you can see above. I bought it last year on sale from CHCM. The price was $350, which was a lot for me, but I’ve wanted a chunky shawl collar cardigan for some time now, and since I’m unusually skinny, it’s hard to find things in my size. Slightly more fashion-forward brands like Ovadia makes slimmer fitting clothes, which sometimes can work in favor for a guy my size, so I jumped on the sale.

As a result, I’ve been able to use my heater less. Apparently about half as much as my neighbor, who has about the same size apartment as I do. You figure with approximately $200 in savings from December and January’s heating bills, this cardigan will have paid for itself by the end of next winter. 

Obviously, I’m not advising everyone to go out and spend $350 for a cardigan. But I am saying that if you can find some nice warm knitwear, it can be a better expenditure than relying on a heater. This 6-ply lambswool cardigan is so thick that is wears like a jacket. Other knits, which are meant to be worn as layering pieces, aren’t as warm simply because they’re not as thick. If you can find a truly chunky, warm-as-a-down-comforter sweater, it can be worth the investment.

On a budget, however, I recommend Smartwool Long Johns. If you layer their midweight wools underneath a button-up shirt and regular wool or cashmere sweater, you can stay pretty toasty. Campmor always seems to have them on sale for about $50-70. At ~$120 for both the top and bottom garments, these could pay for themselves in one or two months’ time.

It’s On Sale: Smartwool Baselayers
Campmor has some good prices on Smartwool baselayers right now. Midweight crews are $40 and long johns are $50. These aren’t the most stylish garments around, but they’ll keep you very warm and toasty in the winter. Wear them underneath sweaters and trousers, and nobody will know the difference anyway.
Also, consider picking something up for the missis. She’ll appreciate it come wintertime. 

It’s On Sale: Smartwool Baselayers

Campmor has some good prices on Smartwool baselayers right now. Midweight crews are $40 and long johns are $50. These aren’t the most stylish garments around, but they’ll keep you very warm and toasty in the winter. Wear them underneath sweaters and trousers, and nobody will know the difference anyway.

Also, consider picking something up for the missis. She’ll appreciate it come wintertime. 



Staying Warm
I was joking with friends a few weeks  ago that Napoleon should have waited for global warming before he  invaded Russia. Even in early December, Moscow didn’t feel that cold and  I was able to get by with some good sweaters and a fall coat. In the  last few days, however, it finally feels like winter. It’s  about 25°F here and snow has fallen. My neighborhood looks  like a Russian winter wonderland. 
In weather like this, most people know that they should wear  sweaters, scarves, and heavy coats. Down-filled parkas, duffle coats,  and heavyweight overcoats are good for protection. A pair of  cashmere-lined leather gloves can also be very useful. 
Perhaps a little neglected, however, are good baselayers. I strongly recommend Smartwool for almost all this stuff - long johns and long-sleeve undershirts, mainly, but they also make very warm wool socks. You can get them at REI.  They come in different weights and thicknesses, and they’re the best  I’ve ever come across. Get the pair that matches your lifestyle and  weather conditions. If you get ones that are too thick, you can actually  find yourself to be too warm in the office. 
I’ve also been reasonably satisfied with Terramar, which you can find heavily discounted at Sierra Trading Post.  I don’t find the construction to be as nice, or the garments to be as  warm, but they still serve pretty well. For something even more affordable,  consider Uniqlo’s HEATTECH.  I have no personal experience with them, but they’re well regarded by  many and are currently on sale. The long johns and long-sleeved shirts  are $12.90, warm-lined pants are $14.90, and socks are $9.90. Uniqlo  unfortunately doesn’t have an online store, but you can purchase  anything from them through Suddenlee (who will ship nationwide). Just enter the sale prices into Suddenlee’s checkout process.
You might also want to consider putting a pair of felted wool insoles into your boots. The Great English Outdoors sells  a great pair for a fair price. I guarantee that if you have a have  some good baselayers, felted wool insoles, and a good coat, you’ll be  ready for winter almost anywhere. 
(As an aside, it’s worth noting that even though it’s snowing and  bitterly cold here, many Russian women still wear skirts and high heels.  If anyone ever wants to start a war with Russia, they should probably  know that fact.)

Staying Warm

I was joking with friends a few weeks ago that Napoleon should have waited for global warming before he invaded Russia. Even in early December, Moscow didn’t feel that cold and I was able to get by with some good sweaters and a fall coat. In the last few days, however, it finally feels like winter. It’s about 25°F here and snow has fallen. My neighborhood looks like a Russian winter wonderland. 

In weather like this, most people know that they should wear sweaters, scarves, and heavy coats. Down-filled parkas, duffle coats, and heavyweight overcoats are good for protection. A pair of cashmere-lined leather gloves can also be very useful. 

Perhaps a little neglected, however, are good baselayers. I strongly recommend Smartwool for almost all this stuff - long johns and long-sleeve undershirts, mainly, but they also make very warm wool socks. You can get them at REI. They come in different weights and thicknesses, and they’re the best I’ve ever come across. Get the pair that matches your lifestyle and weather conditions. If you get ones that are too thick, you can actually find yourself to be too warm in the office. 

I’ve also been reasonably satisfied with Terramar, which you can find heavily discounted at Sierra Trading Post. I don’t find the construction to be as nice, or the garments to be as warm, but they still serve pretty well. For something even more affordable, consider Uniqlo’s HEATTECH. I have no personal experience with them, but they’re well regarded by many and are currently on sale. The long johns and long-sleeved shirts are $12.90, warm-lined pants are $14.90, and socks are $9.90. Uniqlo unfortunately doesn’t have an online store, but you can purchase anything from them through Suddenlee (who will ship nationwide). Just enter the sale prices into Suddenlee’s checkout process.

You might also want to consider putting a pair of felted wool insoles into your boots. The Great English Outdoors sells a great pair for a fair price. I guarantee that if you have a have some good baselayers, felted wool insoles, and a good coat, you’ll be ready for winter almost anywhere. 

(As an aside, it’s worth noting that even though it’s snowing and bitterly cold here, many Russian women still wear skirts and high heels. If anyone ever wants to start a war with Russia, they should probably know that fact.)

Sierra Trading Post
There are some really good sales right now at Sierra Trading Post. Once you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter, you’ll be notified of their daily coupons. Lately, they’ve been offering 35% off your whole order, as well as free shipping if you spend more than $100. That gives the following deals:
Derek Rose pajamas: Excellent pajamas available in multiple designs and colors. Starting price is $78. A bit expensive, to be sure, but Derek Rose is one of the better makers out there. 
Falke and Pantherella socks: Two top-tier hosiery manufacturers, though Pantherella’s quality has taken a dive in recent years. Still, you can get over-the-calf wool socks for about $5 right now, which makes this one of the best deals I’ve seen on socks. 
Johnstons of Elgin scarves and throws: Johnstons of Elgin is a 200+ year old manufacturer of woolen and cashmere goods. They’re not as nice as Colombo or Begg, but they’re very good and much more affordable. Johnstons’ cashmere scarves can be had right now for $39, while their lambswool scarves are $13. At those prices, these are a real steal. 
Tretorn sneakers: These aren’t the Nylites that the menswear bloggerotti have been wearing, but I could see this model still working very well for fall. For $45, it’s not bad. They also have other styles for as little as $26. 
Smartwool baselayers: Smartwool makes some of the best garments for cold weather. If you live in a cold climate, it may be wise to get a few of their baselayers and socks before winter arrives. They’re not the most stylish, but since they’re worn under your garments, they’re also not seen. I even recommend wearing them at home to save money on your heating bill. 
Trickers shoes: Trickers are a bit too rounded for my taste, but they’re quite popular among men’s style enthusiasts. Of the ones available at Sierra Trading Post right now, I like this boot the most, and the extra discount brings it down to $316. 
Bill’s Khakis M3 pants: Bill’s Khakis look a bit frumpy online, but I assure you they’re excellent. The M3 is their slimmest model, but it may need some tapering once you get them. That job should run you about $20, but when the chinos themselves cost $52, these are still a great deal.

Sierra Trading Post

There are some really good sales right now at Sierra Trading Post. Once you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter, you’ll be notified of their daily coupons. Lately, they’ve been offering 35% off your whole order, as well as free shipping if you spend more than $100. That gives the following deals:

  • Derek Rose pajamas: Excellent pajamas available in multiple designs and colors. Starting price is $78. A bit expensive, to be sure, but Derek Rose is one of the better makers out there.
  • Falke and Pantherella socks: Two top-tier hosiery manufacturers, though Pantherella’s quality has taken a dive in recent years. Still, you can get over-the-calf wool socks for about $5 right now, which makes this one of the best deals I’ve seen on socks.
  • Johnstons of Elgin scarves and throws: Johnstons of Elgin is a 200+ year old manufacturer of woolen and cashmere goods. They’re not as nice as Colombo or Begg, but they’re very good and much more affordable. Johnstons’ cashmere scarves can be had right now for $39, while their lambswool scarves are $13. At those prices, these are a real steal.
  • Tretorn sneakers: These aren’t the Nylites that the menswear bloggerotti have been wearing, but I could see this model still working very well for fall. For $45, it’s not bad. They also have other styles for as little as $26.
  • Smartwool baselayers: Smartwool makes some of the best garments for cold weather. If you live in a cold climate, it may be wise to get a few of their baselayers and socks before winter arrives. They’re not the most stylish, but since they’re worn under your garments, they’re also not seen. I even recommend wearing them at home to save money on your heating bill.
  • Trickers shoes: Trickers are a bit too rounded for my taste, but they’re quite popular among men’s style enthusiasts. Of the ones available at Sierra Trading Post right now, I like this boot the most, and the extra discount brings it down to $316. 
  • Bill’s Khakis M3 pants: Bill’s Khakis look a bit frumpy online, but I assure you they’re excellent. The M3 is their slimmest model, but it may need some tapering once you get them. That job should run you about $20, but when the chinos themselves cost $52, these are still a great deal.